Bonita Escapes with Clutch 13-12 Victory – MORE PHOTOS ADDED!

September 18, 2010
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Spathias rolls right.

Spathias rolls right. Photo by Eric Davis.

In an escape act that Houdini might not have dared, the Bonita Bearcats rallied for an improbable 13-12 victory over the Santa Fe Spring chiefs on Friday night at Pioneer High School in Whittier.

Trailing 13-6 with only two Brandt Davis field goals to its credit, Bonita took possession of the football on its own 22-yard-line with 2:24 remaining in the game. Then, in less than a minute, quarterback Greg Spathias, who had thrown two interceptions including one run back for a touchdown, with two others nearly picked off, went to work, slicing up the Chiefs defense like a French chef. In rapid succession he completed passes to Giomani Johnson, Cameron Salce, Garrett Horine, Austin Venegas, Matt Gelalich and then the game-tying 8-yard scoring strike to Salce streaking left to right in the end zone.

Johnson then dug a low snap out of the turf and managed to get the pigskin upright long enough for Davis to kick the extra point through to give Bonita a 13-12 lead.


“Salce had come back into the huddle and said he was left wide open on the prior play, so we called his number again,” said Podley, who had been under the weather all night with the flu, but suddenly felt as if he had been shot up with a miracle cure after the nail-biting victory.

Despite the comeback, the victory still wasn’t secure. With 43 seconds left on the clock, Davis booted a squib kick that appeared successful, but the Chiefs’ return man knifed down the left sideline and would have scored were if not for a game-saving tackle by Nick Berghoudian at the Bearcats’ 14-yard-line. The Chiefs’ Manuel Meza had already kicked a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter, and if he had attempted another after the Chiefs’ run-back his attempt would have been from about the same distance.

The Chiefs ran a couple of plays, then centered the ball back in the middle of the field with one last short run to set Meza up for the game-winning attempt. The snap was good, but the Bonita defense was better as first Daniel Harriman and then K.C. Huth tumbling over him, poured in from the left side to block the kick and preserve the Bearcats’ win.

“Last year, our only touchdown against Santa Fe was a field goal block by me,” said an emotionally spent Harriman. “This year, I felt they put me in this position for a reason and I had to do my job and I came through and it feels great. The coaches asked me, ‘Hey, do you think you can do this?’ and I said, ‘Put it to the left side, and I got it.’ The guard couldn’t handle it. I blew him up. I jumped up, threw my hands up in there, hoped for the best and there it was.”


For much of the game, the Bearcats collectively threw their hands in the air. In their first two offensive series of the game, they went nowhere, and their third drive went in reverse, resulting in a sack of Spathias in the end zone for a safety. Bonita was trailing 5-0, but it felt at the time to the Bonita faithful who braved the drive down the 605 freeway as if the score were 50-0. Bonita’s saving grace was its defense, which outside of allowing an early field goal, was nearly as stingy at the Chiefs’.

In its fourth series, Bonita finally got something going as Spathias connected on completions to Horine, Gelalich and Salce and Johnson rattled off a nice gainer. Still, the offense was sporadic and handicapped by a pair of procedure penalties that seemed to offset any momentum the Bearcats were building. Bonita’s drive, which had started on its own 30, stalled on the Chiefs’ 23, forcing Podley to send in Davis. The sophomore calmly split the uprights to help Bonita pull within two points, 5-3.


In the next series, the Chiefs got the ball back with good field position, starting on their own 45, but Bonita’s defense held again, buoyed by a tough tackle by Berghoudian and a near-pick by Horine playing free safety. After Spathias threw an interception on the Bearcats’ first play from scrimmage, the Bonita defense was sent back on the field and held again, anchored by a huge tackle from Eric Mikity.

After a couple of rushing plays, Bonita went to the air again and again Spathias was picked off. But this time, the defense couldn’t help as Ernest Ledesma raced down the right sideline for a 39-yard interception return to give the Chiefs a 12-3 half-time lead.

In the second half, Bonita’s offense continued to shoot itself in the foot. After the Bearcats’ Toure McCulley recovered a bad snap on the Chiefs’ 12-yard-line after the ball sailed over the punter’s head, Bonita self-destructed, hurt by three procedure penalties. This time, Davis couldn’t save them as his 32-yard-field goal came up short.

As if to take out its frustration, Bonita’s “D” went to back to work, with Huth setting the tone with back-to-back bone-jarring, fillings-loosening tackles. The Chiefs had run into a stone wall. Looking at third and 21 from their own 19, the Chiefs quick-kicked, giving the ball to the Bearcats on their own 30.

At the end of the third and the start of the fourth quarter Bonita and Santa Fe exchanged punts. Then Bonita took over on its own 41 and started to move the ball in a positive direction, first on a short pass to Johnson in the flat, then a nice gain by Reggie Turner to the 28, and then after a reverse that went nowhere, Grant Wharton was on the receiving end of a Spathias pass down to the 14. A high snap forced the Bearcats back to the Chiefs’ 24. On third down, Bonita got the ball back to the 18 before calling in Davis. There was some concern that the rookie kicker might cave to the pressure after missing his last, but he had plenty of leg on the 36-yard attempt and booted it through to leave Bonita trailing by just a touchdown.

“I was feeling bad at first after missing my previous attempt,” Davis said, “but everybody told me I had to come back.” On his second field goal, the Chiefs actually got a piece of the pigskin. “I kick hard,” Davis added.


On the ensuing kick-off, however, Davis and Bonita elected to gamble and try an on-sides kick, which failed, giving the Chiefs excellent field position on their own 47. Despite working with a short field, the Chiefs went four-and-out, turning the ball over to the Bearcats on their own 22-yard line with 2:24 left on the clock and 78-yards to go for a game-tying touchdown.

The urgency of the task called for last-minute heroics, and the Bearcats more than met the challenge to mount their biggest and most important drive of the season.

“I was sweating it out all game,” said Podley, pun intended, soaking wet in his Bonita sweatshirt a la the Patriots’ Bill Belichick. “We were a little shaky in the first half, we missed some tackles. We kind of hurt ourselves on both sides of the ball in the first half.

“In the second half, the defense just played outstanding.”

The high-octane offense that had been averaging 41 points a game, however, misfired. “Offensively, we’ve got some work ahead of us, but this week we basically lost every single offensive lineman. So we struggled, but we came back and persevered.

“Our kids are playing at a championship level,” Podley added. “Sometimes, you have to win these squeakers and close ones and the ones you’re just happy-to-get-out of town with. The kids did that tonight. They believe in themselves.”

K.C. Huth, No. 6, and Daniel Harriman, No. 42, congratulate each other after hard-earned victory.

K.C. Huth, No. 6, and Daniel Harriman, No. 42, congratulate each other after hard-earned victory.

Cameron Salce and his No. 13 proved lucky for the Bearcats.

Cameron Salce and his No. 13 proved lucky for the Bearcats.



All photos by Eric Davis.




Before or after the game, stop at Taste of Asia or the Pizza Barn, where the food and service are always first class.

Also, today, we have two big sales going on: The huge tent sale at Outdoor Elegance uptown and the equally fantastic Gina T. 25th anniversary sale downtown.

4 Responses to “Bonita Escapes with Clutch 13-12 Victory – MORE PHOTOS ADDED!”

  1. Thank you Peter for the article.
    That was an unbeleivable game.
    Eric shot some spectacular photos.

    Ruth Spathias

  2. Thank you Peter for the article.
    That was an unbeleivable game.
    Eric shot some spectacular photos.

  3. Great reporting, photo’s Keep up the great work. Love the photo’s of the Bearcat fans.

  4. nobody now on the sports side tells a story like you peter.jim murray use to tell it like you, from the heart,i love it,
    i think you should give out a award for off and def.
    la verne on line athlete of the year.
    keep up the great work love the front page story too,see u at the bearcat games

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